Progressive overload training...what is this?
You heard of it, they say it's important but...what the heck is that?
Let's start with a fact...
If you lift the same weights for 3 years...you will see NO RESULTS
You will just maintain your current shape and muscle, but you won't make any gains.
Your body won't need to grow as it is already capable to lift the weights that you are lifting, straight forward. But if you try to lift heavier and heavier weights...that's when you force your body to build muscle!
Many people ask me questions like "Should I increase weights? Each time? If not each time, how often?".
First of all I want to tell you how your body works.
How Your Body Works
They use to call the human body the perfect machine. I don't know whether it's perfect or not, but I agree that it is very smart and adaptable.
Your body always tries to adapt to your daily routine, whatever you do.
If you move to a very bright place you'll notice that your pupils become smaller to limit the quantity of light absorbed and give you some relief.
If you live in a cold place you will be able to stand the cold better than others.
If you take a medicine or a supplement for too long (without on/off cycles) it'll be no longer very effective.
There are many examples like these, in our case we're lucky because our body also adapts to muscle stress.
The human body is always subject to new demands like the ones described above.
With progressive overload training you force it to be prepared to respond to those demands and changes.
When we lift weights we build muscle, because our body grows bigger and stronger so that the next time we lift those weights again it is not unprepared.
The goal of our body is to always overcome our demands.
So, Should I Increase Weight Each Time?
From the point of view of a progressive overload training the short answer is YES. Even though sometimes it's not possible otherwise the professional bodybuilders should be doing the bench press with 1 ton!
Sooner or later comes the day that you reach the maximum that you can do, but before you get to that point you must sweat a lot at the gym.
I see people at the gym that for the same exercise use the same weight for 3 months.
And guess what? Yes, if you didn't know them and they told you that they have been doing gym for 2 years you would laugh.
You don't want that to happen to you!
You want people to notice that you're bigger and stronger, right?
Then follow this advice: try to increase weight each time you go to the gym.
Even a 0.25lb increase will be beneficial. It's a change, and as for any change your body will respond to that change.
Progressive Overload Training Examples
If you just started going to the gym it's much easier to do progressive overload because you can see big improvements each week, but then you get to the point where you're stuck and can't move up with weights any more.
That might be because you're tired, didn't sleep good, maybe you cut down your calories somehow or maybe you've been sick and you feel like you're going back.
Don't worry, it happens, been there, done that.
But what matters is your goal. You have to have to convince yourself that you are going to that gym and you're going to do more than last time, and add some weight on the barbell, if you can.
It's important to DO MORE. You can do more even if you don't add weight.
Progressive Overload Training Example 1:
- Let's say you do bench press with 100 lbs, 3 sets of 8 reps. Next time try to move up with weight, and load 105 lbs, and keep doing your 3 sets of 8 reps. Can you? Great, you did more than last time. Next time again add 5 more lbs and try that and so on. Hopefully your gym has very small plates too, the 1.25 lbs for example can be used when you want to do a minimum improvement, but still improvement it is. If the smallest plates available are 2.5 lbs it might be an issue because it means that each time you are trying to lift 5 more lbs and it's not always doable.
Progressive Overload Training Example 2:
- Ok, you've been adding more weights for the past 4 weeks, now you're stuck. Even adding only 2.5 lbs makes it impossible, there is just no way to lift that barbell for more than 3 reps...what to do? When you can't add weight you can try to do more reps. If you did 3 sets of 8 reps with 125 lbs, try doing 3x10 sets, or 4x8, or 3x8 plus 1x3 with more weight. The only thing that counts is that you do more than last time.
If you can lift the same weight for 2 weeks in a row if absolutely necessary to increase weight next time. Same thing when you can do 12+ reps with a certain weight, it's time to add some more.
And remember to always go to muscle failure.
Training to muscle failure and increasing weight are the best stress that you can apply to your body and force it to grow, and make it respond with important muscle gains!
If you plan to do 3x10 sets don't stop at the 10th rep if you feel like you can do one more, go as far as you can. This will give you indication of when it's time to add weights. If you stop at 8 or 10 reps and you're not exhausted you're simply not applying the principle of progressive overload training.
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